Large Banner Ad
Small Banner Ad

August 26, 2009

Anglican priest against Israel as Jewish state

The Canadian Charger

Father Robert AssalyFather Robert Assaly, an Anglican priest, has waded into the debate about the resolutions on Israel and Palestine at Canada's United Church general meeting, resolutions calling among other things for sanctions against Israel and divestment from Israeli companies. 

Background information called Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “apartheid.”  None of the resolutions passed.  Instead, delegates voted to urge local congregations to study the issue and look at ways to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. 

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, from the Canadian Jewish Congress was given the opportunity to address the gathering, expressing dismay at the resolutions but notably absent were any speakers from Arab or Muslim groups. 

In a letter which the Globe and Mail did not publish, Assaly referred to “the tired tactics of the Canadian Jewish Congress’ false and disingenuous charges of anti-Semitism.” 

The Canadian Charger interviewed Father Robert Assaly in Ottawa.

Assaly is an Ottawa-born Canadian Arab currently engaged in doctoral studies in theology at McGill.  He chairs Canadian Friends of Sabeel, an ecumenical Christian Palestinian centre which speaks informally for the churches in Jerusalem. 

Back in 2005, Sabeel  called for morally responsible investment (MRI), which developed into lay organizations moving to boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions (BDS).  The United Church resolutions, which were not adopted, were in tune with that movement.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu addressed the 2005 Sabeel meeting by video, supporting MRI and calling Israel an Apartheid state.  He certainly should know an Apartheid state when he sees one.

Rev. Assaly served the Anglican Church in Israel and Palestine for three years.  As vicar of Gaza, he founded an Anglican church there in 1996.  Israel demolished it in 2002. 

“It was not an accident,” he said.  “They used laser-guided missiles.”  When asked why Israel would want to do that, he replied that “It is part of a campaign to frighten and negate Christians.  Israel wants the image to be one of Jews versus Muslims.”  He saw that same process at work in pressures resulting in a decline in the Christian character of Bethlehem. 

He was asked to comment on a charge made by Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, in a letter to the Globe and Mail.  According to Farber, “Criticism of Israel crosses into anti-Semitism when it calls into question the legitimacy of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.”  “Is Tutu an anti-Semite?” replied Assaly. 

Said Assaly, “Israel has a right to exist in peace and security, but not as a Jewish state.  That added condition was Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ploy to undermine what Obama is trying to achieve.”  Then he added, “Could we call Canada a white state or an English state?” Referring to the fact that Arabs, 20% of the Israeli population, carry ID cards indicating that they are not Jews, he asked, “Are they not full citizens?” 

“I teach my kids about the Holocaust,” he noted.  “How can I make the connection between anti-Semitism and the Holocaust when Farber makes a mockery of anti-Semitism?  We need to go to the wall to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of racism—except when the victims are Palestinians?” 

In an article by Rabbi Reuven Bulka in the Ottawa Citizen, Bulka, past co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said that Israel’s treatment of its Arab population “is nothing short of exemplary.”  “Exemplary, yes,” scoffed Assaly, “if the treatment of blacks in the United States back in the 1950’s is exemplary.” 

According to Assaly, the government of Israel funds Arab municipalities at one-tenth per capita the rate for Jewish ones.  “Arab villages,” he charged, “lack infrastructure.  You go from a Jewish village living in the First World to the next village which is Arab and existing in Third World conditions. And,” he added,” if there is such exemplary treatment, why is it so important to label the Arab 20% as non-Jews?”

In another example, Father Assaly spoke of preferential treatment for army veterans and ultra-Orthodox Jews who, like Arabs, are exempt from military service.  These non-Arabs, he said, “get government support to buy land, land that Arabs do not even have a right to buy without government support.” 

As an example of Israeli practice, he spoke of the case of Naim Ateek, the director of Sabeel.  During the 1948 war, his family was forced at gunpoint to leave their home in what has been renamed by Israel as Beit She’am.  They went to Nazareth.  Ateek is an Israeli citizen, but he has no right to go back to his old home.  He cannot even purchase it back.  It is now owned by the Jewish National Fund and Israeli Jews live there. 

“Israel’s religion,” he charged bitterly, “is the Israeli Defence Force.  It is Israel’s golden calf.”

  • Think green before you print
  • Respond to the editor
  • Email
  • Delicious
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • StumbleUpon